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Lynn L. West, PhDc, BCETS, LCPC
Active Listening Vs. Talking At Someone
Lynn L. West & Associates, LLC

Active Listening Vs. Talking At Someone

Effective communication requires mutual understanding of language, behavior, and knowledge. The most important aspect of relating to someone else is one’s ability to understand new information and add the new information to your existing database of intellectual knowledge, to create a new understanding of what you know. Impairment in the ability to integrate new information into one’s existing fund of knowledge to expand one’s perspective, limits the ability to relate and connect with others.

When someone is talking about something that is happening to him or her in the present tense, a response to him or her should also be in the present. However, instead of using reflective listening and actually responding to what is being said, there is a general and widespread tendency among people to offer an explanation or opinion based on how things were or the way it was in their past.

Active listening requires listening. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Be attentive but relaxed. Mentally screen out distractions like background activity and noise. Don’t be distracted by your thoughts, feelings, biases, or opinions. Listen without judging or mentally criticizing. Listen without jumping to conclusions. Don’t interrupt and finish someone else’s sentences. Don’t impose your solutions or opinions. Do not interrupt. Do focus on the present moment. Do not do anything else but focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t think of what you are going to say. Do reflect back what the person said and acknowledge the importance to the person. Don’t try to fix it. Do genuinely validate and empathize with the person by restating, summarizing, and making brief positive prompts. Give feedback using “I” statements. Put feelings into words. Don’t use, “You” statements.

Communication blockers include:

• “Why” questions tend to make people defensive.

• Quick, shallow responses such as, “Don’t worry about that”.

• Advising: “I think the best thing for you to do is move to an assisted living facility.”

• Digging for information or forcing someone to talk about something they would rather not discuss or talk about.”

• Patronizing: “You poor thing, I know just how you feel.”

• Preaching: “You should” or “You shouldn’t”.

Do you “talk at” others including children, older people, or adults who have comprehensive problems or are noticeably impaired and may not be able to interact at the speed or facility that you prefer? Or do you actually attempt to connect to an individual by showing genuine interest and allowing them to have a voice and be heard?

At a time when there is a divisive and hostile undercurrent in the environment, connection with others is an answer to eliminating polarization and giving meaning a purpose to everyone. Asking someone what they would like, is vastly different than commanding them how they should live according to your opinion of how they should live their life. Taking away someone’s voice and invalidating their meaning to express their own needs and wants is a new way of interacting. A Google search of a topic does not an expert make.

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